• Sergio Perez will leave Racing Point at the end of the 2020 season.
• Perez has been in F1 since 2011, and with Racing Point since 2014.
• Perez finished on the podium on several occasions.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
To think that it's almost a decade since Sergio Perez made his Formula 1 debut. Driving for the then-Sauber team, Perez, or Checo, as the F1 fraternity refers to him, lined up for the 2011 Australian Grand Prix and made an impact on his very first outing.
Stints at McLaren and Force India, now Racing Point, followed, but there was no denying that Checo had the speed and skill to make it big in F1.
His racing career began in 1996 when he took up karting. With the support of Carlos Slim and Excuderia Telmex, the telecommunication company owned by Slim, Perez went from racing in his homeland of Mexico to the Skip Barber series in America. In 1997, he moved to Europe and raced in the Formula BMW Championship.
He'd spend a decade competing in various championships before debuting in GP2 in 2009 - the feeder series to F1. He finished his debut season in 12th place overall. In 2010, he was beaten to the GP championship by Pastor Maldonado. Sauber, though, saw Checo's potential and signed him before the 2010 GP2 season was over and he partnered Kamui Kobayashi at the Sauber F1 team in 2011. In addition, he joined Ferrari's development program.
The Sauber years
2011 was a good year for Checo. At the Australian GP that year, he finished in seventh place, but he and Kobayashi were disqualified from the final results due to technical infringements. He redeemed himself several races later when he finished inside the points at the Spanish GP.
His debut year wasn't too bad, and Ferrari realised the talent in their driver pool. Perez participated in a mid-season test for the Scuderia, but signed an extension with Sauber to race for the team in 2012 instead.
In 2012, at the opening race of the season in Malaysia, Perez nearly won for Sauber, but a mistake and mistimed pit stop saw him finish the race in second place behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Perez immediately drew further attention to him, but then-Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, opted against Perez replacing a struggling Felipe Massa for the 2013 season and beyond.
However, what was Ferrari's loss was McLaren's gain, and the team signed the Mexican to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton.
What is your best memory of Sergio Perez out on track? Email us.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali (far-left), second placed Sergio Perez, race winner Fernando Alonso, and third placed Lewis Hamilton on the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix podium in 2012 (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)
McLaren and Force India
Signing with McLaren was a dream come true for Checo, given that McLaren, along with Ferrari and Williams, is one of the most sought-after teams for any driver. Sadly, 2013 was a challenging year for both Perez and team mate Jenson Button, and the team and Perez decided to part ways at the end of their first season together.
Perez would join Force India in 2014 and gave the team their second-ever podium at the Bahrain GP that year – the first came in 2009 when Giancarlo Fisichella finished the Belgian GP in second place behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. A few races later, in Canada, Perez was on course for another strong result, but an ill-timed passing maneuverer by Felipe Massa, now driving for Williams, took both drivers out of the race.
In 2015, he gave Force India more strong results and did so again in 2016.
Force India would change ownership midway through the 2018 season and in 2019 was renamed to Racing Point. Checo was an integral part of the team and gave enough feedback to engineers and mechanics on how to improve the car. Unfortunately for Perez, 2020 is his last season with Racing Point and will he be replaced by Sebastian Vettel who will join the team next year when it is rebranded Aston Martin.
Perez's future is still unclear, but he has made it known that he wants to be in F1 next year. Possibilities to join either Haas F1 or Alfa Romeo are on the table, but no word yet as to where everyone's favourite Mexican will end up.